No wine-ing for vineyard dogs.
Jennifer Heffner, Vita Images
Virginia vineyards face a serious threat: Nature’s predators lurk, waiting to pluck profits from the vine just as tender buds emerge. Technology has failed to stop them, but there is one creature that can drive away the beasts. His friends call him Jughead.
An ebullient, brown, short-haired walker hound who can instantly tell which visitors have treats in their pockets, Jughead defends Irvington’s Dog and Oyster Vineyard from hungry deer, which can doom a year’s harvest by eating buds and new spring growth. Jughead is one of six dogs that vineyard owner Mark Hollingsworth fosters or has adopted through the Animal Welfare League. Inspired by a 2005 Cornell University study showing that the presence of dogs kept deer out of orchards, Hollingsworth uses the dogs to protect his grapes from deer and other pests.
Most vineyards use deer fences, but Paul Krop of Good Luck Cellars in Kilmarnock once lost a third of his grapes to deer that jumped over his fence. Now his pack of 15 dogs, mainly walker hounds, keeps deer far away.
Though grapes are toxic to dogs (they can cause kidney failure), Hollingsworth has only had to relocate one dog who just couldn’t resist them. The rest roam freely within their invisible fence, lounge in the shade, and race out of their deluxe doghouses to greet customers holding treats from the tasting room jar.
Vineyard dogs serve another purpose: public relations. Chateau Morrisette in Floyd will soon welcome four black labs to keep alive the memory of Hans, the black lab that owner David Morrisette claims helped him start the winery and whose picture is featured on their labels. Says the winery’s Keith Toler, “Dogs and vineyards just seem to go together.”